This afternoon, as I was heading out to the monthly meeting of the local Weasel and Ferret Appreciation Society (W.A.F.A.S), I had another frustrating bout with modern technology.
Starting my car, it didn’t take me long to realize that there was something terribly wrong. I’m no mechanic, and there are many aspects to the modern automobile that I don’t have the first clue about, but, having spent close to 30 years in various I.T. roles, one thing I do understand is computers and their systems. Drawing on this experience, I sensed immediately there was something wrong with the car’s computer.
The warning message flashing on the dashboard said simply, “The Passenger Door is Ajar”. This message was accompanied by urgent beeping sounds. I looked at the passenger door, and it appeared to me that the passenger door was still a door. It didn’t look like a jar. My first instinct was that the warning system was malfunctioning. However, I like to consider myself a man of science, familiar with the scientific method. Assumptions are not valid unless they can be proven. I needed to prove that the door wasn’t a jar.
First I had to understand the attributes of a jar, the characteristics that make a jar indisputably a jar, and then try to apply them to the passenger door of my car. I went back into the house and pulled out a jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly. Studying them, I observed that they were roundish shaped containers, one made of plastic, one of glass, each with a cover and a label describing its contents. The primary function they appeared to be made for was containing semi-solid foodstuffs, and enabling the easy retrieval of these foodstuffs for their intended application (for the jelly and peanut butter, this consists of dipping a knife into the jar to retrieve the contents and then spreading them on their desired destination, either toasted or untoasted bread, a cracker, or the bare skin of a lover.)
Returning to the car, I tried applying these features to the passenger door. The door was not roundish shaped, but was made of a hard plastic. A visual inspection would prove insufficient – while the door clearly didn’t look like a jar, appearances can be deceiving. The only way I would know for sure was by performing a functional test. I would have to determine if the door was capable of performing the primary function of a jar, whether it was able to facilitate the storage and subsequent retrieval of a semi solid foodstuff.
So I went about and emptied the contents of the jar of grape jelly in the door, wedging it into the little slot the window rolled up and down in. It took me better than 30 minutes to get the entire contents of the jar into the door, and to be honest, a good portion of it ended up on my fingers and arm, resulting in an unpleasant stickiness that was made worse by today’s heat and humidity. Once finally complete, I grabbed a slice of bread and a knife, and tried to retrieve enough jelly to spread it to a degree that would make for a satisfying sandwich. The results were disappointing but conclusive. My failure to adequately make a grape jelly sandwich from the contents of the door proved my original assertion true: the door was not a jar! The computer was indeed malfunctioning!
It was at this time that I applied my vast experience and knowledge of computer systems and how they work. It was obvious that there was a bug somewhere in one of the programs. Drawing on my own background as a programmer, I remembered that a common mistake made by programmers is the inadvertent switching of variables. Perhaps the programmer had accidently switched the variables for “door” and “jar”, meaning that what it meant to say was “The Jar is a Passenger Door.” Again, the theory needed to be tested.
I then spent the next three hours removing the passenger door and affixing its hinges to the now empty jar of grape jelly. Finally, with the jar attached to where the door was, I was able to test the jar’s functionality as a car door. Sadly, it failed miserably. It wasn’t big enough to fill the opening next to the passenger seat, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the window work. It was clear that the jar wasn’t a door.
Having exhausted both of these options, it was time to go back to the drawing board. I removed the jar and re-installed the door. By the time I was complete, I have to admit, I was more than a bit frustrated at the failure to determine a root cause, not to mention being late for the meeting (where I was to present my paper on alternative disciplinary methods for disruptive adolescent weasels) and I slammed the door shut in disgust. It was at this point that the computer alarm magically cleared! It no longer thought the door was a jar! Maybe a sensor was misfiring, or a chip was misaligned, or maybe the grape jelly still in the cavity of the door had a healing effect. I’ll have to save the analysis for another time – right now, I have to get to my meeting.